Travel Notes from Pub Street, Cambodia

Yesterday, what i did was just to walk around the old market and the many quiet alley ways of beautiful Siem Reap. The heat was unbearable yesterday though. I think it was about 32 degrees Celsius in very humid weather. And walking meant going to the old market, which i did. I spent quite a fortune buying bed covers which i got down half the price, pillow cases with cute elephant rhinestones embossed, a cute Khmer doll, and a couple of shirts and tanks. 

I am a fan of buying exotic stuff from my travels which i can decorate in my room, and the rest for the house. All in all, it was a good shopping trip and i paid more than 70% off from the original price. But i also feel how hard it is to earn money here in Cambodia. Now with the sun about to set. Ha ha I woke up pretty late and left the hostel around 2PM which means i am officially the laziest traveler in the world. I paid lunch for a whopping $20 but Chow Republic is one of the best restaurants in Siem Reap. I had beef with black beans and small shrimps while i sip my coconut shake. Double order at that. Fantastic! 

I watched the sunset from the busy streets, and found that amidst the tourist culture here in Siem Reap, it is still Cambodia - the land with a memorable past, and the people easy going and relaxed.

I went back to the hostel around 6PM and found more people inside my dorm room. Yey! Tim has always been here, and just finished his second day of exploring the temples. I've convinced him to visit the Philippines, so i think he'a going there in a few weeks. I need to help him out with his itinerary. He works as a park ranger in the US so that's interesting. Victor from Spain was too tired and templed out, he couldn't move a muscle. But he's meeting a "friend" soon. Jimmy, the sleepiest guy in the world is from San Francisco but he works in Seoul, South Korea. Erin with a backpack is from Brisbane and supposedly was waiting for his night bus to Phnom Penh, which later on she cancelled. She left at 7:30AM instead, And of course, Santiago from Colombia just joined us.  

While chatting, everybody decided it was high time to go to Pub Street. And so we did just that, we stopped over first at Viva Mexican Bar & Restaurant. They ordered food, i got my Beer Laos. Done. It's funny how people from around the world are all different. What's really nice about traveling is that you get to learn so much from simple habits to speaking the language, etc. I find meeting other people interesting because it broadens your knowledge of the world. Little by little, you will discover that you're just a tiny speck in this huge planet. Victor invited his Indian friend to join us which made our table the most culturally diverse at Viva. Excellent! 

By the way, it's another terrible news what just happened in Jakarta. I hope one day, people will realize that all these acts of terror have no place in modern society. It's about time that we take care of each other, no matter what color or religion you are born with. We are all brothers and sisters. 

Going back, we headed to more bars and ordered more drinks. I got shots in between my beer Laos. And now as i type this, i swear i won't drink today. I'll detox for one day, and will just relax. My body hurts, and all i want to do is lie down in my bed. But Bun Nak will pick me up at 1PM. He said we can go to Koh Ker. But i am thinking twice because i just read that there still some land mines in the surrounding areas that are still uncleared. I wonder where will i go today. I just want to visit the countryside. Do absolutely non-touristy stuff, and mingle with the locals. Cambodia, surprise me with your rural charms. 

Travel Notes from Tonle Sap, Cambodia

Five years ago seemed already an eternity to me. Going back to Cambodia is a trip of a lifetime. One year in the making. But a lifetime figuring how come i stayed too long last time i was here. Exploring century old temples, eating fried egg noodles and drinking the tasty Angkor beer were some of the things i can never forget about this country. And of course, there's so much more.

I am right at this very same hostel were i once stayed. The Siem Reap Hostel changed a lot, with more rooms to boot and a bigger compound at that. I could have stayed at a fancy hotel now, especially since i can afford it, but i reckoned it would be sick to stay here again for ol' time's sake. And so i did. Sorted out a bunk bed at the mixed dorm room for almost a week here. I am staying with two Americans and one Spanish, and i am here looking weird. Weird because i look like everyone else, yet again. I am the ultimate Asian boy. But it's fun. I loved Cambodia then, i still love it now. 5 years ago, i stayed for about two months roaming around Siem Reap, Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh. This time, i don't know for how long. 

On my first night, i got a room at another hostel called One Stop. Fair enough as i paid 6 dollars for a night because they mixed up my booking. The Siem Reap Hostel is about 11 dollars a night, but i like it here more because of the ambiance. 

I have to tell you about the flight also. The flight from Manila to Siem Reap was turbulent. And i am not exaggerating. Paying about 80 dollars for the round trip ticket is cheap, but the experience was out of this world. Good thing, i arrived safely and the new airport here is huge and beautiful. Totally different when you go outside, and you could see that Siem Reap, the city, remained the same. 

I got out of the airport, and tried to get a tuk-tuk from the outside, but i didn't know where to go. Everybody was pointing me back to the transportation counter, and so i did. Paid for about 5 dollars for a one way trip 8 kilometer easy breezy journey to Pub Street. There i met Bun Nak who would be my guide for the the whole duration of my stay here in Siem Reap. Pretty cool guy! 

He was waiting at the airport from 4PM looking for the next customer he would drive to the city. At 11PM, i arrived. Imagine, he's been waiting for about 7 hours. Too long! Unbelieavable. You have to understand Cambodia is a very poor country, and minimum wage is way lower. 

Relatively, i had no plans at all. I did most of the nice stuff to do in Siem Reap before, so i am left with some ideas for an excursion that I've never done. Three days have passed and i still don't know where to go. I love sleeping in Cambodia, and i find it hard to wake up earlier than 10AM. So right now, as i type this at the bed, i am thinking whether taking a nap or going out to eat. 

After i was convinced to go out and explore the rest of Siem Reap, i scheduled a sunset cruise by Tonle Sap. Together with Bun Nak and his family, we were on our own private boat watching the sun set while drinking my Angkor beer. The water in the lake was calm except for a few bumps when a bigger boat passes us by. Paid 35 dollars for the whole boat which ran for about four hours. And i bought 24 cans of Angkor beer for a mini picnic. That cost me 13 dollars, too. But the experience was whirlwind, and it was such an ideal experience because i went away from the crowd of tourists all doing the same thing. Drinking with Bun Nak, my boatman, we munched on fried fish with salted tamarind sauce, and steamed shrimp together with fresh vegetables. So yummy! We were all so carried away by the experience that we forgot it's already dark. So at around 8PM, and being one of the few boats still by the lake, we headed back to the terminal. We actually cruised with only the moon as our guide light. Before returning to the hotel, i met Bun Nak's mother in law whom we gave rice for gift, and passed by a local wedding. Did you know that during a wedding, the husband and the wife starts of far from each other - like a block away, and as the night progresses that's the only time they will get close and see each other? I Still have about 5 Angkor beer cans left from the picnic. And Bunnak lent me the cooler for now. Bunnak drank about 3 and my boatman 3 also. I was so drunk. Jol moi!!! 

Makati City, Philippines' Food Exploration Tour with Raintree Group of Restaurants

I will never be a food blogger because i'm quite impatient when a food is already served in front of me. But, i really try my best. The Raintree Group of Restaurants presented another challenge to me. How will i be able to keep up to take photos and document all of these delicious food, when i cannot even wait a minute before tasting them all?

Pancit Tinola? Saltimbocca? Seafood Guava? All of these seem strange to me at first but little by little, i understand how exciting it must be to try it all for the first time. And Raintree Group of Restaurants will help me do just that. Let's try them all!

Simple Lang, located within Ayala Triangle Gardens, offer a unique spin on the most popular Filipino comfort) food. As mentioned, i've never tried Pancit Tinola ( Hainan Style Chicken, Fried Sili Leaves). It tasted unbelievably fresh and tangy. Even the Simpleng Arroz Caldo (Spicy Dilis, Kimchi, Tofu, Bicho, Crispy Chili Garlic, Calamansi) never tasted this good. And i haven't touched dessert yet...

The Hot Ginataang Bilo-Bilo is so beautifully prepared, that i had a hard time figuring out if it was really food or an artsy toy. And the ice scramble i ordered made me relieve the days when i was in grade school, and looking very "totoy". Likewise, the Turon Bites (Sabam Toasted Sesame & Condensed Milk) is immediately a winner to me. 

And with tons of surprises in store for its patrons, i wonder what the chef will be presenting next? How about Rellenong Chicken Inasal, perhaps?

Moving over to Zuellig Building along Makati Ave on the 3rd floor is Terraz. Popular with businessmen and socialities, this bistro offers fine dining with a view. And because of its glassy interiors and an ambiance like no other, a date with your loved one or soon to be loved one, will be a topnotch idea. 

For example, the Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna (Pan-Seared Ahi tuna, Romaine Lettuce, Sliced Japanese Cucumber, Vine Cherry Tomato in Sesame Dressing) looks and tastes fresh and juicy. I actually didn't want to share this with my friends, because it was that good. 

It's always a pasta party in Terraz with the Simple Saffron Spaghetti ( Homemade Spaghetti Pasta, Fresh Spinach and Smoked Grilled Asparagus). Likewise, the Truffled Herbed Chicken & Creamy Mushroom (Marinated Grilled Chicken Breast with three kinds of Mushroom and Red Wine Sauce) and how it was plated was so appetizing, i had a hard time convincing my friends that the photos we have are enough. 

Terraz Bistro & Meetings is famous among expats with their desserts and the Crepe Samurai ( Filled with Mango and Banana served with Caramel Sauce and Cinnamon Sugar) is simply perfection. And as i write this, i can't wait to schedule a meeting in there. Of course, this would be ordered for sure. 

I have always been a fan of M Cafe even before i was invited to try out their menu. I like the vibe of the place where the drinks are exquisitely served, the music so good you often ask for the artist from the DJ, and the location so convenient. For those who're unaware, Museum Cafe is so impossible not to find, because it's bright red "M" in front is such an eye candy. 

Both the Hainan Chicken Noodles + Shark's Fin Dumplings (Topped with Spring Onions, Shiitake Mushrooms & Shimeji Mushrooms) and the Seafood Congee + Flower Siu Mai (Topped with Crispy Tofu Skin, Spring Onion Shiitake Mushrooms & Shimeji Mushrooms) are great for dimsum lovers. Even the flavored soy sauce worked to make the taste even more strong. With chilli on the side, this is heaven on a plate. And it's not even past 9AM. 

The M Benedict (Poached Egg, Hollandaise Arugula, Grilled Cherry Tomato, Jamon Excellente Smoked Salmon) is a deluxe treat for the egg fanatics. It's an easy best seller!

There were waffles/pancakes and fruits and pastries, but i was really sold already on the dimsum that i had to post another photo. I am getting hungry just writing about it. 

Five seconds away from M Cafe is Kabila. Just kiddin'! Kabila is literally just on the other side. While M Cafe boasts of a wide spread of entrees, Kabila is a full dining experience like no other. Of all the restaurants, i could literally see my picky father eating all that was served to us. This Filipino Bistro serving fresh and simple Filipino flavors has only one promise to its guests. The food here is so good, you will never forget it. 

The Fresh Lumpia sa Kabila ( Fresh Ubod, Shrimp Mince, Sweet Garlic Sauce, Fresh Garlic + Ground Peanuts) will definitely battle out with your all time favorite dish. The shrimp mince together with the sauce, as well as the nuts, is simply divine. 

For a fish lover, i was very delighted when the Slow-Grilled Gindara (On Charcoal with a Sweet Soy Calamansi Glaze served with Pickled Green Mango) was served to me. I know when my seafood is fresh, and this Gindara is damn fresh. It was so good that i am already happy with this dish, plus all the rice i can eat. 

I've never tasted a guava sinigang in my life. The Seafood Guava Sinigang at Kabila ( Scallops, Bangus Belluy, River Prawns, Clams, Kangkong, Labanos, Sitaw + Cherry Tomatoes) claims the spot as now my most favorite dish of all time. I bet that you've never tasted a sinigang this good in your life.

Since there's still room to recover from food coma, i tasted the Buko Pandan that was served with melon shreds. I can attest how at only P195, you're already too close to heaven. And look at that plate, it's time to Instagram it. 

Later that night, our group was off to go Japanese. At Saboten in Glorietta 5, the story of the best Tonkatsu since 1966 comes alive. Suddenly, the memories of my trip to Japan comes back little by little. With freshly squeezed orange juice to detox, i was off to order the Shrimp Fry Set ( A combination of deep-fried shrimp and other Saboten specialties. 

And since they had Deep-Fried Oysters, i grabbed a piece for myself. And since it was imported from Hiroshima, Japan, i knew this was to be the best fried oysters in the market today. 

And since i don't eat pork, my friends enjoyed their Tonkatsus and Curry sets, while i try out the Agedashi Tofu. 

A few hours later, the dessert was served. The Chocolate Hazelnut Cream Cake below was delectable, and the fine chocolate whipped on top was definitely made with finest ingredients. 

On the other side of the plate is Sesame Sansrival Cave which i never shared with everyone. Ha! 

This food exploration tour was a delight to all senses. Trying out a lot of food for the first time while basking in ambiance of casual to fine dining restaurants is something i will never forget. I realized after this, that i may not be the best food blogger, but i known my food damn well. Cheers, Raintree Group of Restaurants. 

Simplé Lang Restaurant
Ayala Triangle Gardens, Ayala Avenue, Makati City, Metro Manila
Telephone Number: +6326216162

Terraz Bistro
Third Floor, Zuellig Building,
Makati Avenue corner Paseo de Roxas Avenue, Makati City, Metro Manila
Telephone Number: +6326254832

Museum Café / M Café
Level 1, Greenbelt 4, Ayala Museum, Makati Avenue corner Dela Rosa Street, Makati City, Metro Manila
Telephone Number: +6327573000

Kabila Filipino Bistro
Level 1, Greenbelt 4, Ayala Museum, Makati Avenue corner Dela Rosa Street, Makati City, Metro Manila
Telephone Number: +6327573000

Ground Floor, Glorietta 5, Ayala Center, Glorietta Complex, Makati City, Metro Manila
Telephone Number: +6326250909

An Extraordinary Experience for Filipinos Staying at Crimson Hotel Filinvest City, Alabang

I've been talking to my driver the whole 2 hours of my trip from Quezon City to Alabang, and have been wondering how it is to stay at Crimson Hotel in Filinvest City. He mentioned right away the iconic structure towering over lush greens of the south. He also told me about numerous stories of celebrity sightings in the hotel. For someone who has lived all his life almost 40 kilometers away, i was intrigued. But more excited, for i was personally invited to stay for a night. The heavy traffic along Edsa made the kilometers seem even longer, but my excitement grew to hundred folds. 

Imagine when i arrived at the lobby and looking at the beautifully designed interiors. I was amazed by the spectacle i am seeing. No wonder people have been raving about Crimson Hotel for years now since it opened years ago. 

I am quite particular with interiors, having stayed in more than a thousand hotels around Asia. But what i saw at Crimson Hotel will probably be in my list of most beautiful hotels in Asia. 

After setting Nepal as my other residence, i have already fallen in love with tea. Imagine that as i explore the vast grounds of the lobby, i stumbled upon a whole set of Dilmah Tea at the Lobby Lounge.When i was in 98 Acres Resort and Spa in Ella, Sri Lanka, i ordered a cup of Dilmah Team, and the fresh and fine Premium Ceylon Single Origin Team neatly pressed was served to me. Two things: I want to go back to Ella in Sri Lanka, and i want to go back to Crimson Hotel, just so i can order a cup. 

I am trying to find the words to describe the lobby to the lift. The granites and marbles give me the impression of opulence but not discerning. I mean, relatively, it's not as super expensive as the other hotels. Moreover, i think you're getting more for what you paid here. 

And coming closer to the ottoman, made me wonder how much effort was given to put all the interiors up. I sat here for a bit, and realized how lucky i was to get a dibs on the stylish interiors of Crimson Hotel. 

Later on, i went on the quieter side of the lobby and unto the quaint lounge area where an imposing piece of art resembles that of Parisian chic. I remember when i did the art tour at Ritz Carlton Milennia in Singapore. Imagine, i actually stayed at a hotel similar to it. Gosh, i feel so lucky.

And the search for places to chill never end at Crimson Hotel. The farther i go, the more beautiful the interiors get. 

I actually took more than a thousand photos of the interiors alone. 

But as they say, the best is yet to come.

People know me well. I am quite private with my bed. So i subtly took a photo of where i will be billeted for the night. It's a Deluxe Room with two twin beds, perfect for me and a friend. The 28 square meter room was big enough, complete with 40 inch LED television and high-speed internet access. It helped that since Crimson cares, they managed to make all rooms equipped with Energy Recovery Ventilation, which means the in-room air quality ensures fresh air circulation. I loved this room. 

Then, friends of mine invited me to meet up with them on the 8th floor. Again, more art for my peculiar eyes. 

As soon as i stepped out, i was lead to an oasis in the middle of the city. The huge pool was exclusive to staying guests. The dedon loungers tastefully adjoining the Deck Bar reminded me so much of the dedon decks of Kandooma in Maldives where i was a year ago. If it's beautiful during day time, imagine how it is at night.

That's me with my friends enjoying a night cap of solid cocktail mixes al fresco style courtesy of the hotel's Marketing Communications Manager, Michael Anthony Sangaran. Chatting with him made me conclude that it goes by saying that the reason why Crimson Hotel is this nice is because the people behind the hotel really know their guests and what they're doing. It was really a high time for all of us as we watch the stars light up that night. 

Of course, a tour of Crimson Hotel won't be complete without the fabulous Cafe Eight, where the breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets with Mediterranean flair offer a gastronomic experience you will never forget. Enjoy the spread of food. 

By far, Crimson is one of the best hotels I've ever stayed around Asia. What's nice is that it lives to its promise of an extraordinary experience in an atmosphere of tranquility, subdued elegance and new expression of cosmopolitan life at its finest. 

I'll end this post now, so i can book a weekend staycation again at Crimson Hotel. 

Crimson Hotel
Address: Entrata Urban Complex, 2609 Civic Drive, Filinvest City, Alabang, Muntinlupa City 1781
Phone Number: +6328632222
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